Better Know… Elle from Couple Money

Better Know A Blogger - Elle from Couple Money

This is the very first “Better Know A Blogger” interview. We’ll be posting one per day, except on Saturdays and Sundays, leading up to the 2012 Financial Blogger Conference next month. The purpose of this series is to introduce you to some excellent bloggers from all across the web who are able to shed light on topics ranging from debt to saving money to investing. (Each interview is done via e-mail and then published here)

Our first interviewee is Elle from Enjoy!

Elle and Rob from Couple Money

Elle and Rob

Your blog and your writing are so professional – did it take you awhile to get to that level or are you a natural?

Wow, thank you Ben, I’m glad my writing comes off as professional. I got started with blogging years ago and I’ve worked to improve my writing. My first personal finance blog (Green Panda Treehouse) was genuinely for my own accountability purposes as you can tell by the name. My hope was to get my finances squared away while I was in college and it grew from there. When I graduated it became harder and harder to write about personal finances as a college student and so I started Couple Money and sold off GPT.

Actually Donna Freedman had a presentation at the Financial Blogger Conference  last year about writing that inspired me further. Hopefully I’ll continue to grow and learn 🙂

Very interesting! That brings up a couple questions: how were you able to be so financially focused while in college and what advice would you give to current students? Also, what is it like to sell a blog?

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One of my goals was to pay off my credit card debt before I got married and being a personal finance blog reader, I thought starting my own site would keep me focused on my finances. Like a lot of people I know, I was great on certain things with money (like making a dollar stretch for food, started investing while in school) while really bad with others (having credit cards with balances). I was on a ‘can I make my monthly payments’ budget plan.

For current students I would recommend holding off on using credit cards until they have a steady income. The temptation is high with them and if you don’t have a job or you’re living on your financial aid, you can create a real mess for yourself financially.

Selling the blog was hard – I really enjoyed writing for GPT and I wanted someone who would build it up. I had debated about it for months, but didn’t do anything. I knew I wasn’t doing a good job running GPT and Couple Money at the same time, but I was nervous about selling something I created. Fortunately Mike from The Financial Blogger mentioned on some forums that he was looking a blog. It clicked and the rest is history. I check on GPT from time to time.

Wow, good for you! So did you succeed in paying off your credit card(s) before getting married? Also, which personal finance blogs were you reading at that time?

Yes, I was happy to pay off my credit cards! Besides improving my financial situation I felt motivated and more confident to continue with increasing my net worth. My husband is a saver by nature, so he was very encouraging and supportive.

If I remember correctly I was reading I Will Teach You to Be Rich and Get Rich Slowly. I found both sites to be very informative and they felt as if a friends was talking to me about getting my finances straight.

That’s cool! And now you’re probably inspiring some future blogger with your writing! You mentioned that your husband was a good influence – how important is it for couples to have similar views on finances to be able to successfully manage their money? And what strategies do you recommend to couples?

I think it’s a huge boost when you and your spouse are on the same page. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have the same methods, but it’s vital for you to have an agreement about your family goals. Play to your strengths is something I’d advise. My husband is more conservative so he’s a better saver than investor. I push him to contribute more to his 401(k) and he is great at making sure we maintain our emergency fund and checking buffer. I enjoy setting up and adjusting bill payments. Between the two of us the finances get handled and then once a month we sit down and review the accounts.

I also recommend having joint accounts and individual accounts. Of course most of our money goes to the joint accounts, but it’s nice to have a little bit of spending money for gifts and stuff that we like. I like to go out and he prefers buying gadgets with our individual accounts. It doesn’t hurt our joint accounts and it’s a nag free zone 🙂

The individual accounts (and the nag free zone) is a great idea. I’m sure many of your readers are dealing with ‘couple money’ issues too. What are some of the most interesting questions or thoughtful ideas you’ve gotten from your blog’s readers?

Over the years the most common questions I get about couple money issues surprisingly boil down to:

  • Where to Start – A lot of couples are starting out and they are simply overwhelmed by what they have to do. Many times when I write back, the first thing I suggest is sitting down and coming with one or two goals that they really want to accomplish. Most times it’s about saving enough and paying off debt. I think for many couples having a savings buffer is a good first goal to work towards.
  • Loaning Money to Relatives – In-laws and relatives are always an interesting dynamic, but they’re especially so when it comes to money. Sometimes one spouse has this close relative that always seems to have money problems. The other spouse, being more objective many times, will say to not lend the money, but it’s easier said than done. I think this is one time where the opposite spouse may have to step and play the bad guy. I’ve written about situations where I’ve gifted small amounts money to relatives, not expecting to see the money again.Happily most do pay me back.
  • Combining Different Money Styles – Opposites tend to attract and sometimes that includes money habits. I don’t believe you have to split responsibilities rigidly down the middle. Like I mentioned earlier, I think you can play to each other’s strength. That said I do think that couples should respect one another’s style and it’s the responsibility of both spouses to be aware of their finances. When I get ready to write the monthly net worth review for the site, the day before I usually sit down with my husband to see what the balances are for all of the accounts.

Getting feedback and stories from other couples has really been a two way street of encouragement and learning.

That is fascinating. It must be fun to have that dialogue with your readers. Okay, last question: you mentioned attending FinCon last year; what was the most memorable part of that experience and what are you looking forward to at this year’s conference? (Any tips for a first-timer like me would be appreciated too!)

That’s a tough one! Last year’s FinCon was actually our first family trip since having the baby so the whole experience is ingrained in my mind, lol. I would have to say that the best part for me and the big advantage of the conference would be meeting up with Donna Freedman for breakfast. I love her writing, but speaking with her made her even more memorable.

It’s one thing to meetup with bloggers at the dinners and the conference, but it’s so much more rewarding to get together in smaller groups or even one on one, whether it’s fellow bloggers, advertising partners, or representatives of financial companies. My advice is to set aside time for genuine conversation, not having back to back meetings with a stream of people. I’ve made some great contacts last year and many of them have helped promote my site and vice versa.

That is great advice! And in that vein, I look forward to meeting you in person at the conference. Thanks again for taking the time to speak with me.

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  • I love this idea and it was a great interview. Keep it up!